A Portable Rig

Posted: July 18, 2012 by Paul H in Tips & Tricks
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Over the years I’ve used Marshall and Peavey 5150 heads along with 4×12 cabs. Lately I’ve been doing looping gigs with a Roland VG-99 and looper direct into the PA. But now I’m planning to go out and gig to support my best selling album “Paul Hanson Orchestra”. Most of the time I’ll be setting up gear myself so I need a small portable rig.

I own a Yamaha 1×12 combo amp designed by Michael Soldano, I got it back in the 90’s when I was a Yamaha endorser. It’s 100 watts, four 6L6 tubes and man, it’s loud. It’s so loud I used to let my daughter use it as a PA for her horseback drill team shows, a hundred plus people would be there.

I pulled this combo amp out of my basement and had it re-tubed. It cost a small fortune, there are a lot of tubes in there! I also had some things tweaked on it, and my tech Ed (Efex Electronics in Seattle), had to blow a bunch of dirt out of it too, pretty dusty on those Southern California horse ranches.

Over the years, I haven’t used this amp much but I always kept it because it sounded good. The only thing that bothered me was its open back design. I appreciate with the open back, the sound spreads around, especially for small gigs. But I miss the tight punchy bottom end you get with a closed back cab.

Open back cabs just don’t have that low thump for hard rock. My theory is, sounds coming off the back of the speaker blend with the sounds coming from the front of the speaker and some of the low frequencies are cancelled out.

On the other hand, there’s a problem with closed back cabs too. They are very directional, like a laser beam. You do get the low thump, but the sound comes out in a straight line. Its loud if you’re in front of it, but you can hardly hear it if you are off to the side.

Closed back 4×12’s are great when you’re playing big gigs and being mic’d up, and virtually everyone hears you through the PA. But at small gigs, they can be a problem, especially if your 4×12 is facing the bar! It’s important to keep the bartenders happy, I like free drinks.

My solution for the closed and open back dillema was a portable rig with the best of both worlds. One 12” open back speaker in the combo, and then I’d add a closed back, extension cab.

Recently I was inspired by one of my students who built an amp with parts from Mojotone.com. I figured; I have a table saw, router, etc. so I bought a sheet of the best ¾ plywood Home Depot sells and went to work. I also bought grill cloth, Tolex, an amp handle, metal corners, a back jack-plate, rubber feet, etc… everything I would need from Mojotone.com and matched all the parts to my Yamaha Combo amp.

Ed sold me a used Celestion 12” for the cabinet. This speaker has a big magnet, and “heavy duty” is written on it, I think it’s similar to a Vintage 30. Celestion Greenbacks are popular too but a bit soft sounding for me. Also 100 watts into only 2×12’s is a lot of power, so both speakers need to be beefy. I also made sure the speaker was 8 Ohms, like the one I have in the Combo so I could run them in parallel.

I used these four videos from YouTube as my construction guide. I took some liberties to match my combo. Here’s a link to the first video, you can find the other three videos from here if you want to check them out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm_PYUFCPSk

There was a bit of learning curve. Gluing the Tolex and stretching the grill cloth were the hardest parts, but it was fun, I like to build things. And, I was right, this rig sounds killer, the closed back cab adds the bottom punch I was looking for, but I still get the open back spread.

Here are tone examples of the rig, clean and dirty. I recorded them in a small bedroom I’ve taken over for my live gear.  I used a small Boss BR recorder with its built-in mics for this, no EQ, it was about three feet from the amp.

Dirty Tone

Clean Tone

If you noticed, there’s delay on the dirty tone and chorus on the clean tone. Not only am I a Boss pedal expert, but I’m a fan too, so I added some pedals for this setup. First the DD-7 delay, along with an external pedal, to tap in the delay rate. In-time delay always sounds best. Btw, I use the DD-7’s analog setting, I feel this helps the echo stay out of the way of my original signal. I also have a Boss CE-5, the old style chorus for my clean tones. It’s not too chorusy, just right. These two pedals are in the amp’s effects loop.

For extra gain on the solos I have a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive. Eddie Van Halen and Zack Wylde have been known to use this pedal. I say the SD-1 is like breast implants for your amp, it just gives your amp more of what it already has. I used to use TS-9 Tube Screamers for the same purpose, but maybe the TS-9 thins the tone a bit? Tube Screamers do sound great though.

I’m going to add a wah pedal but the question is, which one to go for? I may go simple and get the $69 Dunlop. Dang, I wish Boss still made the V-Wah, it was a digital pedal that used an infrared light and a sensor. It also modeled different wah tones, Vox, Morely, Cry Baby, etc. but alas the V-Wah was discontinued. Maybe I can find one on eBay, hmm…

I love this rig!!

  1. Ted Herb says:

    nice work Paul
    You should build your pedal too.
    byoc (build your own clone) sells kits right here in Wa.
    They are great kits

  2. Tommy Z says:

    Really cool rig Paul!! CongratZ .Good luck with the gigs!

  3. Tommy Z says:

    Cool rig Paul! CongratZ.. Good luck with the gigs!

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